Protect yourself from scammers in the new year

As you consider New Year’s resolutions, you may have some thoughts about living a healthy lifestyle or financial goals. While you work towards these efforts, consider taking steps to ensure you are protecting your money and identity in the new year. After all, avoiding the stress of identity theft and losing money to a scammer can be great steps towards your other goals!

Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips for a safe and secure financial new year:

Regularly check your account statements for unauthorized transactions. The faster you find them, the better your odds of getting your money back and stopping future thefts. If you notice any unauthorized charges, contact your bank directly right away.

Check your credit report. You can get one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com. Do this from a secured internet connection, as you will need to enter personal information.

Shred sensitive documents. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Secure or lock sensitive personal documents around your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work performed in your home.

Keep your computer and phone safe. Install anti-virus software on your computer. Check regularly for software and operating system updates for your devices. Don’t open attachments or click on links in suspicious or unexpected emails.

Limit what you share on social media. Scammers use social media sites to gather information on potential victims. Avoid sharing too much personal information and check your privacy settings. Additionally, never announce on a social media site that you are going out of town or won’t be home for a specific period of time. This is like posting a sign on the front lawn announcing no one is at home.

Never wire money to someone you don’t know, and be skeptical of requests for gift cards. Scammers know that these forms of payment are very difficult to track, meaning once you’ve wired the money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.

Always read the fine print — especially with “free” trial offers. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB this year after signing up for a “free” trial offer online that resulted in repeated charges to their credit or debit cards. Read the terms and conditions before typing in your credit card number.

Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a company’s word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between what you expect and what the business delivers.

Always check a business out with BBB before you buy. Visit bbb.org to find BBB Business Reviews for millions of businesses across North America.

Emily Valla is the marketplace director for Better Business Bureau Northwest: Idaho and Western Wyoming. Contact her at 208-523-9754 or by emailing emily.valla@thebbb.org.

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